A Mother’s Secret by Renita D’Silva
Publication: April 07th 2016 by Bookouture
Format: eBook Pages: 352
‘What if you discovered that everything you knew about yourself was a lie?
When pregnant Jaya loses her mother, then her baby son Arun in a tragic cot death, her world crashes down. Overcome by grief and guilt, she begins to search for answers – to the enigma of her lonely, distant mother, and her mysterious past in India.
Looking through her mother’s belongings, she finds two diaries and old photographs, carrying the smoky aroma of fire. A young boy smiles out at Jaya from every photograph – and in one, a family stand proudly in front of a sprawling mansion. Who is this child? And why did her mother treasure this memento of a regal family lost to the past?
As Jaya starts to read the diaries, their secrets lead her back to India, to the ruin of a once grand house on a hill. There, Kali, a mad old lady, will unlock the story of a devastating lie and a fire that tore a family apart.
Nothing though will prepare Jaya for the house’s final revelation, which will change everything Jaya knew about herself. ‘ – Goodreads
I was sent an ARC copy of A Mother’s Secret by the publisher a very long time ago. I just never got around to reading it because I couldn’t find the time. Since the book has been published for a while now and I had a guilty conscious (considering I requested it), I went ahead and paid for the published copy so my review could be based on what actually got published and I could stop feeling guilty (nope, still feeling guilty).
I’m glad I got around to reading A Mother’s Secret because I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was, and it wasn’t anything like I’d expected it to be. My initial thoughts were that this was going to be a story about a woman who was forced to marry someone when she loved someone else and there was going to be some kind of kerfuffle resulting in a fire. It turned out to be so much more.
The story is split up between Jaya, Durga, Kali and Sudha and the scenes slip into the past and then the present; this style reminded me of The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro. The pro of the structure was that I didn’t get bored of reading a linear narration, the past and present dips kept things alive and built up the mystery surrounding Jaya’s recently deceased mother, Sudha. However, the con was that I didn’t enjoy reading the parts narrated from Durga’s point of view because to me, she eventually felt like a pointless character.
The mad lady, Kali, had the most intriguing story and the way her character development was incredible. I started off hating her character as a young girl because she was just horrid; a selfish and inconsiderate little thing who treated her grieving mother like crap. As the story progressed and Kali grew older, I started to appreciate her as a cunning woman who would do what it took to survive and would play damn well with the cards she was dealt. Can’t really hate her for that. My feelings towards Kali eventually turned to pity.
The ‘secret’ itself did catch me by surprise and the way the various characters found themselves entangled in the storyline was well done by D’Silva. The writing style is split between third person present tense and first person present tense (Jaya’s diary entries). I liked this because it was easy enough to read. My only quibble was with Jaya’s interior monologues concerning her mother because they just seemed overdone and made me dislike her.
‘You were hungry for love and approval as a child and so, as a mother, you made sure I never wanted for anything’
I felt like the ‘show don’t tell’ rule could have been applied to pretty much all of Jaya’s inner thoughts.
The most refreshing aspect of A Mother’s Secret was the lack of info-dropping. I recognised and understood all of the non-English words in this book so I read it without any trouble but, for someone who does not understand Hindi, some terms such as pallu might catch you off guard as no explanation is provided as to what it is. I didn’t mind this, I actually liked it and wouldn’t have minded even if I didn’t understand Hindi because it wasn’t key to the story. The effect of the writing just diving straight into Indian culture and Hindi words without explanation is that you don’t find yourself blocked from truly getting immersed in the story because of all the additional information thrown at you.
I’m glad I paid for the book at the end and finally got around to reading it because it was worth it. It was a really enjoyable read and I’d highly recommend it.